National Sheepdog Finals underway near Carbondale
The nation’s top dogs and their handlers are in the Roaring Fork Valley this week for the National Sheepdog Finals.
It’s the third time the event, which is arranged by the United States Border Collie Handlers Association, has been hosted by the Strang Ranch, located north of Catherine Store at 393 Garfield County Road 102.
The first time, in 2011, rancher and sheepdog owner Bridget Strang had a lot of help. In 2014, and even more so in 2016, she’s doing most of it herself.
“I feel slightly more comfortable because I do have a better idea of what’s going to happen this time,” she said.
Although the finals usually rotate on a three-year basis, Strang chose to go a year early so her event wouldn’t conflict with the 2017 world trial, which she hopes to attend herself.
“Now I’m on a three-year rotation if I decide to do it again,” she observed.
It’s already proving more competitive than last year’s event in Alturas, California, as the top 150 dogs are chosen to compete.
“It’s an extraordinary year in that it’s taking a lot of points to get into the finals,” Strang said.
The competitors will be greeted by uncooperative range sheep, a spectacular view of Mount Sopris, and a selection of gear and food vendors.
“We put on a little bit more of a dog and pony show,” Strang said. “I try to take care of the spectators and make the handlers’ time special.”
Tickets benefit Colorado Animal Rescue and are available at the event at $15 for adults and $5 for kids and seniors. Six-day passes run $60 for adults and $20 for kids and seniors, while carloads of three or more get in for a flat $40 in an effort to encourage carpooling. Some seating is available, but you can also bring your own folding chair. No noncompeting dogs are allowed. For more information go to http://www.sheepdogfinals.com.
Strang encouraged locals and visitors to come up and spend a day or two.
“It’s an amazing sport that people don’t get to see very often,” she said. “To be able to sit up here on this conserved land and enjoy a nice fall day is hard to beat.”
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The Forest Service plans to replace the Carbondale Aspen-Sopris ranger district station with a newer, larger facility.